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Patrol's making a safety blitz

Make sure you and your family are buckled in, or don’t expect any mercy if stopped by the State Patrol in coming days.

You won’t be able to talk yourself out of a ticket, which is $86 for a seatbelt violation. “There will be no breaks,” said Trooper Julie Swanson, one of the 10 troopers assigned to the State Patrol’s Oak Harbor office.

The “Law Enforcement Blitz” began Feb. 8 and continues through Feb. 17. It focuses on seatbelt and child restraint use, as well as speeding and other traffic safety issues.

The effort is organized by the Washington Traffic Safety Commission. During the enforcement blitz, troopers and officers from local agencies, such as Oak Harbor police and Island County Sheriff’s deputies, will conduct surveys to determine seatbelt and child restraint use. After Feb. 17, a follow-up survey will determine if the blitz was effective.

“We do 100 percent enforcement, there will be more officers on the road,” Swanson said. She said seatbelt compliance on Whidbey Island is 83 percent, which isn’t bad but “it could be better.” She’s hoping news of the blitz will persuade even more drivers to buckle up.

Drivers who are stopped will be told about the advantages of properly using seatbelts and child safety seats. Swanson said child safety seats are widely used on Whidbey Island, “but 99 percent aren’t installed properly.” Advice on proper installation will be given, and the State Patrol has a program where help with installation is available.

Drivers will also be informed of the state’s new booster seat law which will take effect July 1, 2002. The new law carries a fine of $86 for every unbuckled or incorrectly buckled child. The law also requires the use of child safety seats and booster seats for all kids up to age six, and requires kids up to 6 ride in the back seat.

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